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00000181-fa79-da89-a38d-fb7f2b910000KUOW is joining forces with other Seattle media outlets to highlight the homeless crisis in the city and region on Wednesday, June 29, 2017.The effort was modeled after a collaboration by more than 70 San Francisco outlets to focus a day of news attention on the issue and possible solutions.Read more about the Seattle project and check out our coverage below. Follow the city's coverage by using #SeaHomeless.HighlightsThe Jungle: an ongoing coverage project going into the notorious homeless encampment under Interstate 5.Ask Seattle's Homeless Community: KUOW is launching a Facebook group where anyone may ask a question about homelessness, but only people who have experienced it may answer. This was inspired by a recent event KUOW co-presented with Seattle Public Library and Real Change, where residents of the Jungle answered audience questions. No End In Sight: an award-winning investigative project from KUOW about King County's 10-year plan to end homelessness.

Should Seattle Ban Smoking In Public Parks?

Seattle's proposed ban would apply to people lighting up tobacco products. Washington state law prohibits marijuana smoking in public places.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones
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Seattle's proposed ban would apply to people lighting up tobacco products. Washington state law prohibits marijuana smoking in public places.

Seattle officials want to ban smoking in all public parks, but some opponents say the crackdown would unfairly target homeless people.

A park advisory board will take up the issue for a possible vote Thursday night.

As KUOW's Liz Jones reports, public opinion is mixed.

TRANSCRIPT

Seattle already has a rule against smoking within 25 feet of people in the park or play areas. But park officials say that’s been difficult to enforce, and they want an outright ban. It would cover people lighting up cigars, cigarettes or hookahs, but not smokeless items like e-cigarettes or vape pens.

Doug Honig is with the ACLU of Washington. He spoke at a press conference in downtown’s Westlake Park Wednesday and said the ban is misguided.

Honig: “If you want to educate people about the health risks of smoking and encourage people not to smoke, that’s a great idea. Let’s do it. But don’t throw in threatening and maybe arresting people whose lives are already very difficult.”

The proposed rule directs park rangers to tell smokers about the ban and suggest alternate areas. After that, violators would get a verbal warning, then a written trespass notice.

The Parks Department recently revised its proposal to address concerns from homeless advocates. It dropped a $27 citation and created a way for people to dispute trespass notices.

Seattle resident Denise Gilman: “I cannot wait for this to go through. Their bad choice can kill me.”

Gilman was making her way across Westlake Park under a wide-brim sun hat with the help of a walker.  She says she’s highly allergic to smoke.

Gilman: “I can’t walk through the park if they’re there.”

Senior citizen Becky Rutberg also favors smoke-free parks.

Rutberg: “It would make it more healthy for everybody, especially children.”

Others in the park doubted a ban would prevent people from lighting up.

The Parks Department collected a few thousand comments on the proposed ban. It came in at a 60/40 split, with more people against the new rule.

Officials note more than a thousand cities and jurisdictions have passed similar rules, including Portland, Oregon and Tacoma, Washington.

Year started with KUOW: 2006